Halacha Date: 8 Tevet 5775 December 30 2014
In the previous Halacha, we have explained the law that one must eliminate Shevi’it produce from the time that specific fruit is no longer available in the field.
How to Eliminate Shevi’it Produce: Burning or Hefker?
The Rishonim disagree regarding how one must eliminate Shevi’it produce when the time comes. According to the Rambam (Chapter 7 of Hilchot Shemitta), one must actually destroy these fruits by burning them or throwing them into the Dead Sea and the like, similar to the laws of burning Chametz. The Ra’avad concurs. On the other hand, Rabbeinu Shimshon, the Tosafot, Samag, and Ramban maintain that one need not actually burn Shevi’it produce; rather, elimination of Shevi’it produce refers to removing them from one’s possession and rendering them Hefker (ownerless). One must therefore take these fruits out of one’s house (if this is not possible, the Hefker process may be performed in one’s house as well), stand before three people, and proclaim, “My Jewish brothers! Anyone who wishes to partake of these fruits may do so.” These people may then partake of these fruits.
The modern-day Poskim likewise disagree how this elimination should be carried out. Hagaon Harav Ben-Zion Abba Shaul zt”l writes that since the Rambam’s opinion is that the fruits must actually be destroyed, his ruling must be followed, for the Rambam was the leading authority of the Land of Israel. On the other hand, Maran Rabbeinu Ovadia Yosef zt”l disproves this stance with many sources and proofs and quotes the words of Maharam ben Haviv in his Sefer Tosefet Yom Ha’Kippurim, who writes: “Halachically speaking regarding the elimination of Shevi’it produce, the custom in Jerusalem is to render them ownerless and to then reacquire them. Many great and pious scholars have followed this custom. Indeed, Maran writes that this was the custom of Mahari Korkus.” Maran Ha’Chida rules in his Birkei Yosef (Yoreh De’ah, Chapter 334, Subsection 10) rules likewise and quotes the words of Rabbeinu Yosef of Tarani (Chapter 42) that “we have never heard of any person in any city in Israel who has actually destroyed Shevi’it produce.” Indeed, Hagaon Harav Avraham Yitzchak Ha’Kohen Kook rules likewise in his Responsa Mishpat Kohen (Chapter 83) and adds that one who acts stringently is quite possibly transgressing the prohibitions of causing loss to Shevi’it produce as well as needless destruction of good fruits. Hagaon Chazon Ish rules likewise. (See Ma’or Yisrael, Pesachim 52b and Responsa Yabia Omer, Volume 9, OC, Chapter 108)
Thus, halachically speaking, the Mitzvah to eliminate Shevi’it produce is that when the date arrives when a given fruit is no longer available in the field, such as the time when grapes are no longer found in vineyards and one has grapes remaining in one’s home, one must take them out of one’s possession, render them ownerless, and it will then be permissible for the owner to once again reacquire these grapes.
How is this Hefker Carried Out?
When performing this Hefker, this may be carried out even in the presence of three of one’s friends. Even if one is certain that these friends will not take any of one’s fruits, this is still permissible since according to the letter of the law, they may partake of these fruits and only because of their close friendship with the one rendering the fruits ownerless are they acting beyond the letter of the law.
After rendering the fruits Hefker, one may reacquire them and partake of them as much as one wishes. The Poskim disagree whether or not Shevi’it produce retains the sanctity of Shevi’it after having been “eliminated”. Halachically speaking, the great Rishon Le’Zion, Moreinu Harav Yitzchak Yosef Shlit”a rules leniently and there is no need to treat such fruits with the sanctity of Shevi’it, especially when this is difficult. (Yalkut Yosef-Shevi’it, page 589)
In the next Halacha we shall, G-d-willing, discuss this topic further and summarize the laws of elimination of Shevi’it produce. We will also discuss the laws of eliminating Israeli wine which is can also be found in many places outside of Israel.